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Currently | Jobs, Parties, and Painting

Around Here | It’s a lazy Sunday morning here in Minnesota. My sister and I hosted a holiday party with a boozy hot chocolate bar last night, so we’re all moving a little bit slowly this morning.

Reading | It’s 10 days into December and I haven’t finished a book! I got sucked into read a book on Edward VIII, his abdication, and how he was basically a Nazi. It was interesting, but I also think my patience with stories about mediocre white dudes dealing with problems of their own making is low, which made it hard to pick up. So, I’ll be sending that on back to the library and digging into two books that fit my mood better — This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.

Watching | On the whole, it’s been a good fall tv season. I’ve continued to love The Good PlaceBrooklyn Nine-Nine, black-ish, and Speechless. And a couple of new shows — The Mayor and Ghosted — have made their way into our rotation. However, the highlight of this season has been The Big Family Cooking Showdown, a cooking show with some of the same DNA as The Great British Baking Show. It’s been a delight to watch after a long day.

Listening | Our party playlist last night was Spotify’s Christmas Pop list, which was pretty delightful.

Feeling | There’s this billboard on the highway on my drive to work — “FURY. Now Hiring All Positions.” It’s for an auto dealership, but it pretty well sums up how I’m feeling about being a woman in the world right now.

Loving | For the last month, my sister and I have been doing a community education class on beginning watercolor painting. I’ve been having so much fun with it. I’ve never been an artist, but there’s something really meditative about the process that I’m enjoying.

Loving II | My new job, as social media specialist for a county library system, is so great. I like my coworkers, the work is challenging, and the pace of the job feels more manageable. It took awhile to find, but every day I’m more confident this is where I was supposed to end up.

Pondering | As the year comes to a close, I’ve started thinking about what my One Little Word will be for next year. I didn’t do much publicly with my word (joy) this year, but it’s often been on my mind and part of what I tried to explore during my job search. I have a few ideas for 2018, but I want to sit with them more to see what feels right.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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And it’s December! Just like that, 2017 is coming to a close and we’re starting to look to 2018. For me, this year has really been a prime example of the idea that the days are long, but the years are short. November was an especially busy month for me. I just looked at my calendar, and in addition to the first month at a new job and co-hosting Nonfiction November, I also had event/plans for 18 of the 30 days of the month — that’s a lot for an introvert like me!

All that to say, my reading in November was significantly slower than it was in October. Here’s what I finished:

  • The Return by Hisham Matar –– Memoir about a man returning to Libya after begin exiled as a child, seeking information about his father who was likely killed in a Libyan prison.
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke — Mystery about a black Texas Ranger who finds himself in the middle of investigating the racially charged murders of a black man and a white woman in a remote Texas town.
  • The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall — A reprint of a 1971 book investigating the disappearance/death of a man who fraudulently claimed he completed a solo trip sailing around the world.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie — Hercule Poirot investigates a murder… on the train the Orient Express.
  • Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed — A cult-like community is shaken after the tween and teens girls of the island stage a rebellion against the customs and predatory behavior  they’ve been taught are part of their culture.

I’m really happy with the books I read this month, even though I didn’t finish as many as I hoped I would given the long Thanksgiving weekend. My reading pace was pretty high early in the month, but then I got slowed down with War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, which I still haven’t finished! It’s obviously well-done, but the story — a man writing the story of his grandfather based on his grandfather’s diaries — just isn’t one that I find very interesting right now… so it’s going slowly. It’s amazing all the things you can find to do besides read when the book you’re in the middle of isn’t engaging in the moment!

Still, I can’t complain about the books I did finish. The Return and The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst were both very good examples of narrative nonfiction, and I adored both Bluebird, Bluebird and Gather the Daughters. Please, give me all the books you can find about white dudes getting their comeuppance and girls rebelling against terrible men — that’s pretty much all I want to read right now. Truthfully, I wasn’t as enamored with Murder on the Orient Express as I hoped to be… I found Hercule Poirot to be a a difficult character to really get behind.

A Look to December

I am not sure what is on my plate for December. I don’t have nearly as many things on my calendar, which I hope will give me some more space for reading and relaxing. We’ll also be up at my parents’ cabin over Christmas, which promises to bring a lot of reading time too. Given my current frustration at the state of the world, I think I am going to just lean into books written by women about women’s experiences in the world. Some options include:

  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood — Seeing the series pop up on Netflix made me want to finally pick this one up.
  • A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney — I’m excited to read a bit about the friendships that help sustain and inspire some of the world’s best female writers.
  • Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak — I picked this novel, a story set on one night in contemporary Istanbul, up at BookExpo and finally am going to try to read it.
  • This is the Story of A Happy Marriage by Ann Pachett — I’ve been slowly reading the essays in this one, which I think I can finish up this month.
  • Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich — I’m reading this for one of my book clubs. I can’t wait to see how Erdrich does science fiction.
  • Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — I am all in for feminist, fantastical short stories.

And that’s what has my attention for the moment. Who knows what it will actually be by the end of the month! I hope you all have a great December — what books are you excited to read this month?

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Nonfiction November Week 5: New to My TBR

Anyone else shocked that November is almost over? I can’t believe it myself. This week’s host for the final prompt of Nonfiction November is Lory at Emerald City Book Review who is asking about books that are New to My TBR

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

I have to admit, I haven’t been as engaged with Nonfiction November as I hoped to be. Other than the week where I hosted, I didn’t get a chance to go out and visit other bloggers much at all… I blame a month more full of life commitments than I would like and the fact that I started a new job in late October. I’m still adjusting, and blogging seems to have taken the biggest hit.

But, I still managed to add several books to my toppling TBR pile. Here are a few:

And with that, we’re at the end of another awesome Nonfiction November! Thanks so much to everyone who has participated in some way — responding to the prompts, leaving comments, sharing photos on Instagram, whatever. Even though I’ve been a bit on the fringe, I’m so glad to see this event thriving.

And a special thanks to all of this year’s co-hosts — this event literally wouldn’t happen without all of you. Give a round of applause for Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Lory (Emerald City Book Review) and Leann (There There Read This). You ladies are awesome!

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Hello hello! This week’s host for Nonfiction November is Katie at Doing Dewey, who is encouraging us to talk about Nonfiction Favorites: 

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

I decided to take the easy way out and respond to Katie’s questions one at a time, which hopefully will give a good sense of how I got about choosing my nonfiction reads.

Is the topic pretty much all that matters?

Absolutely not. I’m one of those weird nonfiction readers who will pick up a book on just about any topic – honestly, the stranger the better – provided the writing is good and the story is told in an interesting way. It does help if the topic is something in my wheelhouse, but some of my favorite books have been about things I didn’t really know I wanted to learn more about – lobsters, Star Wars, canoeing, or Olympic rowing, for example.

There are a few topics, however, that I tend to avoid. I generally don’t enjoy reading about World War II (or really, any major war), and I’m not often interested in biographies of dead white dudes. While there are always exceptions — The Boys in the Boat comes to mind, as does a book from my TBR, Destiny of the Republic — those are definitely areas that I tend to skip if I don’t have specific recommendations.

Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love?

As a former journalist, I love stories where you get a chance to see how the author put the book together. I like learning a little bit about the reporting/writing of the book as I’m reading it, and when the author find a way to become part of the narrative in a subtle, useful way. These aren’t memoirs (although I like them too), just well-researched nonfiction that includes a personal component in the writing.

Mary Roach is really excellent at this style — her science writing is infused with her personality in a way I really love. Sarah Vowell also does this well. A book I read recently, Nomadland by Jessica Bruder, benefited a lot from her immersion with the story she was trying to tell. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is another tough topic that was made easier to read about thanks to the personal experience the author was able to include.

Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone?

One of the things I can be a little pushy about is the idea that nonfiction can be equally as fun and transporting as fiction. I read nonfiction for enjoyment as often or more than I choose to read fiction for pleasure, which means I generally look for a lighter touch. That doesn’t mean I don’t read nonfiction on serious topics, just that I tend to look for a more readable writing style — I’m much more of a popular, mainstream nonfiction reader than an academic nonfiction reader.

And that’s all for this week. Thanks again to those who are reading, commenting, and visiting the other bloggers participating this month. It was fun to host last week and finally make it around to all of the bloggers participating. Make sure to visit Doing Dewey to check out what other people are saying about their favorite nonfiction!

Some of these links are Amazon Affiliate links. If you click through and buy something on the site, I’ll get a small commission. 

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Nonfiction November Week 3 Wrap-Up

You guys, I had such a good time reading all the posts for this week’s Nonfiction November prompt, Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert. I’m sorry this wrap up is getting published so late, I had a crazy week and just finished commenting on the last post a few minutes ago.

Here are the bloggers and topics that made up this week’s prompt. Be sure to click over to those you haven’t read yet, or those topics that are especially interesting to you (especially those near the bottom of the list) — a lot of them were really creative:

Heather at Based on a True Story — People Forced to Leave Their Homes

Kazen at Always Doing — Doctors Doing Their Thing Awesomely

Unruly Reader — Self-Improvement Books

Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest — Books About the Intersection Between Our Physical Being and Psychological Being

Julie at Julz Reads — Mountains

Beth at Too Fond — Raising Children With an Awareness of Nature

Emma at Words And Peace — France

Katherine at Writerly Reader — Folklore in the Digital Age

Kim at Time2Read — U.S. Presidents

Lindsay @ Lindsay’s Library — Dogs, Animals, Exploration, History, Medicine, Science, Travel, War

Lory at Emerald City Book Review — White Trash and Hillbilly Elegy

Anne@ Head Fullof Books — Mental Illness and Abnormal Psych

Juliana at Wild Places — Maritime Disasters

raidergirl3 at an adventure in reading — Feminist Theory 101, Biology Topics, and Black History Month

Eva at The Paperback Princess — Hollywood

Maphead’s Book Blog — Iran

Iliana at Bookgirl’s Nightstand — Bookbinding

Trav at HeadSubhead — Bookshops

Tara at Running ‘n’ Reading — Staying Injury-Free

Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves — Reading and Writing Life

Angela at Literary Wanderer — Female Heroes

Susie at Novel Visits — Women and World War II

Nick at One Catholic Life — Spiritual Reading

Deb at The Book Stop — U.S. Politics and Current Events

Heather at Gofita’s Pages — Death and Dying

Kristilyn at Reading in Winter — Memoirs

JoAnn at Lakeside Musing — Books About Books

Buried in Print — Residential School System

Literary Lindsey — Gardening and Local Eating

Novels and Nonfiction — World War II

Carrie at Other Women’s Stories — The Kennedy’s

Jessica at The Bookworm Chronicles — Christian Nonfiction

Brona’s Books — The Holocaust

TJ at My Book Strings — History and Development of Free Speech

Tina at Novel Meals — Ex-Pat Literature

Thanks to all who have participated so far! Next week’s host is Katie at Doing Dewey who will be asking about Nonfiction Favorites:

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

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